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This is a Photograph of Me - Margaret Atwood

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Justin Noftall

on 5 May 2014

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Transcript of This is a Photograph of Me - Margaret Atwood

Stanza 1
It was taken some time ago
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper
With the first stanza the narrator uses words such as smeared, blurred, blended and grey flecks to introduce this photograph and the poem
The narrator is trying to explain that this photograph is initially hard to see, like a blur, its smeared so it's difficult to perceive whats in the photo
Stanza 2
then, as you scan it, you see in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house
Finally, after looking at the photograph, something on the far left is noticeable, a branch, which seems to be a part of a tree
Looking to the right, a small house stands in the way of what should be a small slope
Comparing the tree and house, even though the tree is off to the side and the house is out in the open for all to see, somehow the house isn't as important as the tree
The tree is given a specific description, yet the house is small, and bland
Stanza 3
In the background, there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills

The third stanza is just adding more aspects to the scene, the lake and some low hills in the back
Notice again how almost everything in the photo (excluding the tree) is just looked over, not really noticed, until you investigate further

Stanza 4
(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned
The tone is set in this line
The narrator states that this photograph was taken the day after she died
There could be a literal meaning to this, that she passed away after tragically drowning in a lake
Or a more underlining meaning

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion
Stanza 5
Stanza 6
I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface
but if you look long enough,
eventually
you will be able to see me.)
Stanza 7
the narrator restates that if you take the time to look, you'll eventually be able to notice her existence under everything
This is a Photograph of Me
By: Patrick, Luiza, Vanessa & Justin
Novelist, poet, story writer and environmental activist
Considered one of Canada's best writers
Born in 1939 in Ottawa, but grew up in Quebec, Toronto and parts of northern Ontario
Received her undergraduate degree from Victoria college at University of Toronto and her Masters from Radcliffe College
Many of her books have had great success including The Year of the Flood (2009), The Blind Assassin (2000) and The Handmaidens Tale (1985)
She has also received a number of awards and honors such as The Governor Generals Award (1966 & 1985), the Booker Prize (2000) and one of her most recent awards, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)
A Post-modernist poet
Margaret Atwood Bio
Atwood has some specific writing styles
She tends to celebrate nature, use photographic references, use illusions, make appearances change, touch on the topics of death & wilderness vs. civilization
She also writes a lot of her stories as science fictions ,or to showcase a struggle of women in society, or sometimes both
Question: What do you think the poem is about now? Merely as it is at face-value, or is there something deeper?
The poem is free verse and open; no strict structure to it like a quatrain or villanelle, and it doesn't follow any rhyme scheme, so it flows freely
Although the poem has 7 stanzas, it can be seen to be split into two halves
The first half, sets the scene of the poem, as the narrator (Atwood) explains the view of the trees, hills, the small house, and the lake in the countryside
The second half however, is enclosed in parentheses
Definition of parentheses from Oxford Dictionaries: A word or phrase inserted as an explanation or afterthought into a passage which is grammatically complete without it, in writing usually marked off by brackets, dashes, or commas
In this, Atwood (the narrator of the poem) uses parentheses to not take away from the photograph she describes, yet, so she can further explain what's going on in the picture
Structure of the Poem
Definitions
A Deeper Meaning
At face value, it's just Atwood simply describing nature found amongst a photo of herself
However, how is it possible for her to be in the photo if it was taken the day after she drowned?
Through further examining, there are several things that Atwood's poem could symbolize.
Feminism
Several aspects of nature described in the photograph resemble the dominance of men over women in an oppressive society
In stanza 1, "At first it seems to be a smeared print: Blurred lines with grey flecks blended with the paper"
The distortion of the images in the photograph represents the negative labels put on women
The whole meaning of the poem is that we have to overlook these distortions, to realize the importance of women.
Feminism cont'd
Photography
Works Cited
Poetic Devices
Themes
Smear:
to mark (something) messily or carelessly with a greasy or sticky substance
Fleck:
a very small patch of color or light
Balsam:
a herbaceous plant cultivated for its flowers, which are typically pink or purple and carried high on the stem.
Spruce:
a widespread coniferous tree that has a distinctive conical shape
Slope:
a surface of which one end or side is at a higher level than another; a rising or falling surface
What is the narrator telling us with this?
First off she could be telling us that she feels isolated in her life
Secondly, this line could also be a representation of feminism
What do you think this poem is about?
When water comes into contact with light, it tends to distort anything under the surface (in terms of size and location)
The narrator is then saying that her view to others is distorted, due to the effect of the water
Could water be symbolizing something else?
Mood & Tone
In stanza 2, line "what ought to be a gentle/ slope" could represent the constant struggle woman have in overcoming the discrimination towards them
The following line "a small frame house", could symbolize women in society, how they are often seen as weaker and smaller than men. Also, the home could also symbolize a woman's place in society, as back then that's where men thought they belonged.
In stanza 6, line "the effect of water on light is a distortion" shows how Atwood is hidden beneath the water of the lake, her voice, and woman's opinion in general aren't being heard
The water of the lake could represent male's dominance in society which is distorting the true voice and image of women in society.
Ambiguity
Simile
comparison of two unlike things using "like" or "as"
"a thing that is
like
a branch: part of tree (8)
Mysterious during the first half but becomes a bit troubling once we find out about her death
The poem is also quite somber, which is ironic because when the photograph is described it is dull and grey
What happens to the narrator is somber as well
Near Rhyme
rhyming in which the words sound the same but do not rhyme perfectly
"eventually, you will be able to see me" (25-26)
eventually and me sound the same, but don't completley rhyme
A word or phrase that can mean more than one thing, even in its context
" The photograph was taken the day after I drowned" (15-16)
This could mean a number of things
At first it seems that she drowned in this lake, but it could also mean that she is drowning in her life at the moment
For Atwood, she sees photographs as stopped time
To her, they're mysterious because in a photograph one can see the moment in which the photo was taken
It's hard though, to take a picture of whats really going on in that moment though
So by looking into them, instead of looking at them, you can get an understanding for whats being shown in the photo
Euphemism
An understatement, used to lessen the effect of a statement
The word
drowned
being used instead of saying she
died
Parenthesis often indicate that the content inside of them usually isn't as important as the text itself and doesn't need to be stated for the text to have more meaning
Through using the parenthesis in the second half of her poem Atwood is displaying how women can often be viewed as insignificant to others in a patriarchal society
Feminism Cont'd
A main theme to the poem is to not just look at something, like a photograph, but instead look beneath it to see a deeper meaning
Death is also another theme in the poem
It represents the ultimate form of isolation, being alone, in the dark, and ultimately forgotten
Nature is a theme in the poem
Finally illusions and distortions are theme
Water is a prime example of distorting the image of what people see
Bachelor and Master. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. <http://www.bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/this-is-a-photograph-of-me.html>.
Charles' Poetry. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <http://charlespoetry.blogspot.ca/2009/03/summary-this-is-photograph-of-me.html>.
Echoes Fiction, Media, and Non-Fiction. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
English. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Oxford Dictionaries. Web. 2 May 2014. <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/smear?q=smear>.
English. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Oxford Dictionaries. Web. 2 May 2014. <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/fleck?q=fleck>.
English. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Oxford Dictionaries. Web. 2 May 2014. <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/balsam?q=balsam>.
English. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Oxford Dictionaries. Web. 3 May 2014. <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/spruce?q=spruce>.
English. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Oxford Dictionaries. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/parenthesis>.
Poetry Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/margaret-atwood>.
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